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5 Features To Look For In A Travel-Size Pillow

Many people love to travel as frequently as they can. Traveling is an effective way to de-stress, unwind, and have a break from your hectic schedules. But even with the perks and benefits of traveling, it can be tiring and tedious at times. After all, traveling is a physical activity that requires you to walk around, lift heavy baggage, and endure long hours of being seated in the same position. Thankfully, one invention that has made every traveler’s trip experience better is the travel-size pillow. A travel-size pillow is a must-have accessory for regular travelers. Read on to know what features to look for when buying one on our blog.

Travel-Size Pillow

Travel pillows are designed to provide high comfort and body support, especially during long flights or bus rides. The support and comfort it provides could help you get better sleep quality during your trips. You can also use travel pillows to cushion your body while sitting for long periods and avoid awkward sitting positions. But in order to relish these benefits, you also need to ensure you find the best travel-size pillow for you. (1)

There are different types of travel-size pillows available on the market, and finding a suitable one for you can be confusing. Before you go shopping for your travel pillow, familiarize yourself first with the different types of travel-size pillows and how they differ from one another in terms of weights, shapes, and filling.

Different types of travel-size pillows

Knowing the types of travel-size pillows can help you understand what features to look for when shopping for one. Although they all serve one purpose—providing body support and comfort—their differences in filling and firmness can impact your buying decision.

Here are the most common travel-size pillows and their features:

  • Buckwheat travel pillow

A buckwheat travel pillow, from the name itself, uses buckwheat hulls for as its filling, making them easily adjustable. You only need to add or remove the hulls until the pillow’s firmness matches your needs. Furthermore, buckwheat travel-size pillows come in different shapes and sizes, most commonly rectangular and U-shape. (1) 

The beauty of this type of pillow is its ability to easily conform to the form or shape of your neck or back and provide full support regardless of your sitting or sleeping positions. Add to that, the hulls can promote better air circulation and keep your head, neck, or back cool in your travels. Thus, this could be a perfect option when you’re visiting tropical countries and enduring scorching bus or car rides. (2)

Comfort-wise, travel-size buckwheat pillows often come with a washable and removable pillowcase, making it easier to clean and maintain them. You only need to remove the hulls, let them dry under the sun, and wash the covers. You can also watch this clip for more information about buckwheat travel pillows:
  • Microbead travel pillow

Like buckwheat, microbead travel pillows are also adjustable. But the main difference is the filling. Instead of hulls, this pillow uses tiny polystyrene beads for its filling. You can add or remove a few beads anytime until the firmness or softness suits your needs. This pillow can also easily mold into any body position and promote air circulation to keep you cool during your sleep. (3)

However, when the pillow fabric stretches out after long-time use, the beads could suddenly pop and scatter, eventually losing their volume and firmness. These beads scattering can be risky for small kids. Furthermore, microbead travel pillows are also considered the bulkiest among the other types. This might not be the best pillow option for light packers due to it being the least portable among other options.

  • Memory foam travel pillow

Memory foam travel-size pillows are often reviewed as the firmest, comfiest, and most supportive type. It’s also considered the best option for head tilters and sleepers who constantly suffer from neck pain. This pillow is created from denser materials, making it more consistent in providing ergonomic back, head, or neck support. Similar to buckwheat, memory foam travel pillows can also mold and conform to your sleeping position. However, due to its natural softness, it might not offer proper air circulation. (2) (3)

On a positive note, it can absorb sweat quickly and prevent odor, especially for sleepers who usually sweat during their sleep. Memory foam travel pillows often have no removable covers, making them harder to clean. That said, make sure you buy one that is machine washable.

  • Inflatable travel pillows

Inflatable travel pillows are perfect for light travelers. This type is made from stretchable polyester materials and features a cotton cover. Since it’s air-filled, you can easily inflate it depending on your preferred firmness and deflate it when you need to fold and pack it in your luggage. (2) (3)

Besides being available in different shapes (e.g., rectangular, U-shaped, neck roll), they’re also available in various designs. For example, some travel-size pillows may feature a hood for your head, designed to cover the light. Some also feature some locks so you can attach them to your seat. Best of all, this option is the most cost-effective travel pillow, suitable for low-budget travelers.

What to look for when choosing a travel-size pillow

Now that you know the different travel pillows, here are five features you must look for when choosing your travel-size pillow:

  1. Body Support 

The main essence of travel-size pillows is to provide support to your head, back, or neck when you sleep during your travels. Thus, the most crucial feature to look for when buying a travel pillow is its body support. Keep in mind that not all travel pillows offer the same level of support. (1)

For example, for travelers who often lean backward or tilt their heads when sleeping, the inflatable and memory foam may be the best option to offer neck and head support. Meanwhile, for travelers who often suffer from back pains after sitting for long hours, the buckwheat travel pillow may be the best choice for offering back support.

But if the travel pillow still doesn’t help improve your sleep quality, consider using a sleep aid with natural ingredients. That way, you get some extra help in achieving a deeper and more peaceful slumber during your travels. (2)

  1. Fabric

The travel pillow’s fabric is often the most overlooked feature when choosing a travel pillow. Some people will only find out they bought the wrong fabric when the pillow already feels scratchy and itchy on their skin. Thus, the fabric should be among your priorities during the buying process. Take your time to touch and feel the fabric and determine if it’s comfy for you. If you’re shopping for travel pillows online, you can read product descriptions and opt for the one that uses the same fabric as your current bedroom pillow. (3)

Likewise, the weather of the region you’re visiting or traveling to can also make a difference to your fabric choice. For example, if you’re traveling to tropical countries, travel pillows with cotton or polyester fabric may be the best choice in providing optimal comfort. On the flip side, if you’re heading to colder places, travel pillows made of suede or fleece may be the best option.

  1. Size And Shape

Although this article mainly focuses on travel-size pillows, they may still differ in terms of shape and portability. Some travel-size pillows come in U-shaped, J-shaped, rectangular, hourglass, or elongated. Remember, the shape of the pillow can significantly impact its functionality and provided the level of comfort. (2)

Here’s how each shape is different:

  • U-shaped: This is the most popular pillow shape and most commonly used travel accessory. It’s highly beneficial in providing neck and head support, especially when sleeping in a sitting position. Its form is made to keep your neck in place from tilting back and forth, often the main cause of neck pains. You can find some U-shaped travel pillows that feature a clip so you can hold it in place to your neck, back seat, or on your luggage.
  • J-shaped: This is often considered the more complex version of a U-shaped travel pillow. It’s specifically created to provide support on your chin and neck, specifically for side-sleepers or travelers who sleep in awkward positions. Be aware that J-shaped travel pillows may appear bulkier and harder to pack due to its shape.
  • Rectangular: The rectangular travel pillow looks precisely similar to the bedroom pillows you have at home, with the difference that it’s made in travel size. It’s designed to provide support for travelers who often experience back pains. Moreover, it’s also easier to pack on or in your luggage compared to U-shaped and J-shaped pillows.
  • Elongated: Elongated, or also known as wrap travel pillows, are known for their flexible, versatile, and lightweight characteristics. You can adjust it to any pillow shape you want to conform to your desired sleeping position.
  • Hourglass: Hourglass travel pillows offer better versatility than the other shapes. You can position it on your back, neck, knees, or other parts that require support during your sleep. Some would even use this pillow when working while sitting for long hours.

Most travel pillows offer different shapes and sizes, so ensure you opt for the one that perfectly suits the type of sleeper you are. 

  1. Weight 

While all travel pillows are made light, some types may be lighter than others, which could be a crucial consideration for others. This feature is critical, especially for light travelers or people who are particular with their luggage weight.

If you’re a frequent traveler who’d like to limit your luggage weight, the inflatable and buckwheat travel pillow may be the best choice due to its flexibility and portability. Meanwhile, if the weight is never an issue when you’re traveling, you may opt for any travel pillow as you’d like. (4)

  1. Durability 

For frequent travelers, durability is an important feature that you shouldn’t miss. The last thing anyone wants is to constantly buy a new travel pillow each time they go on a new trip. A high-quality, durable pillow may be costlier than others, but it’s worth the investment. When testing durability, you can read reviews from various online pillow stores to check if their products are durable and high-quality. (3) (4)

Key takeaway 

Whether you’re camping or traveling on a plane, car, or bus, the travel-size pillow will boost your comfort level and improve your travel experience. Just remember that the travel pillow can only provide full support and work effectively when you buy the right one. So make sure to consider the important features mentioned here and get the most out of your investment. 


  1. “Different Types of Pillow”, Source:
  2. “Pillows for Neck Pain”, Source:
  3. “The 16 Best Travel Pillows for Every Type of Seat Sleeper”, Source:
  4. “These 11 Pillows For Neck Pain Will Make You Feel Like A Brand New Person”, Source:

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